A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our daughters to the neighborhood swimming pool. I ran into a colleague and casual friend who was there with her two boys. She was chatting with another mom of two boys, and the four kids were splashing together happily while their moms lounged on the edge of the pool. (Note to self- bring a buddy to the pool next time to enhance Mommy’s relaxation experience.)
My friend introduced us, and explained that they had all gone to college together, and wound up moving to Colorado at the same time. “We’ve been here for 13 years,” she told me, “and we met their oldest son in the hospital the day after he was born. Our boys are more like cousins than friends.”
I felt a pang of jealousy. These were her “people.” A few weeks ago, 3 Things For Mom ran a post that included this tip: “Find your people.” The full post articulates the importance of surrounding yourself with a tribe, and when I read it, I immediately felt grateful for all the fantastic girlfriends I had in my life.
- My best friends from college who all live less than an hour away from me.
- My two closest friends without kids who keep me grounded and know me as more than Mommy.
- My fellow mom friends who listen without judgment and make me feel less alone.
- The friend who “gets me,” sharing my sensitivity trait and even matching my exact Myers-Briggs type!
- My blogosphere friends, most of whom I have never met, but who relate to my ambitions and frustrations so well.
But there is one thing that has always felt missing to me- my husband and I don’t have “that family.” You know- the other couple that you both like so much, whose kids are of a similar age. Maybe they live next door and you wander freely into one another’s backyard, understanding that the lack of shower and presence of pajamas is not a deterrent to sharing time. Maybe you’ve known each other since your wild college days, and you’ve navigated the transition into parenthood together. Maybe it’s your sister and her family, and a standing invitation for reciprocal baby-sitting.
We don’t have those people in our lives- not yet. It’s not that we don’t have friends with kids that we have suffered through birthday parties, street fairs, and carnivals with. It’s not that we don’t have neighbors with kids- we actually love spending time with the other families on our street. But there’s something different about having that couple that you know without a doubt would come stay with your kids if you went into labor in the middle of the night, or who can join you for dinner without inspiring that “hostess” panic. Those people.
It seems like this type of relationship is very elusive- both the husbands and the wives have to like each other, or worst case, the husbands have to tolerate one another! It helps if the kids are close in age, so you can plan activities that everyone will enjoy. It seems like the kid:kid ratio should be close as well- the family with one child may not mesh well with the family who has two sets of twins. Then of course you factor in proximity, schedules, parenting styles- how can all these factors possibly add up to the perfect dual family friendship?
I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the fantastic, loyal, empathetic friends that I have. Perhaps our inability to align ourselves with another family has more to do with conflicting schedules; I work part-time, and often my children are in school or childcare when my stay at home mom friends are available to socialize. Conversely, my friends who work full-time may not have the same flexibility that I do, and who has time to get together during the infamous Crappy Hour- that mad rush from 4:30-8:00 that involves frantic dinner preparation, a sit-down meal (or not!) and the bedtime countdown?
One of my favorite HerStories essays, from Christine of A Fly On Our Chicken Coop Wall, shares the story of two families who had weekly community dinners. Reading that post filled me with longing; I have always envied people who had another family that they dined with, played with, and traveled with on a regular basis.
My cousin lives in a neighborhood with several families whose children are of similar ages; she and her next door neighbor have traded off caring for one another’s children during pregnancy, illness, the post-baby months, or even Get-these-kids-out-of-here-right-now! moments. They often show up in one another’s kitchen, not necessarily having bothered to call or even knock, and frequently join each other for a communal backyard BBQ.
I want that. My parents have a couple they have known since college; their names are Charles and Charlene, and my brother and I have always known them as Uncle Charlie and Aunt Charlie. They haven’t shared a city with my parents in over 35 years, and yet the lack of proximity did not diminish the importance of their role in our lives; we routinely traveled to visit them and their two boys, or hosted them at our house. “The Charlies” were a staple in my life, and a model of what an enriching adult friendship could look like with another family. I have often remarked that I am still looking for “Our Charlies.”
I wonder if I will ever be fortunate enough to have another family that I consider to be my tribe, my people. It is possible that I am romanticizing the idea, but I have the sense that for those who have found their “Charlies”, this type of friendship is life-changing.
Have you found your people? Do you have another family that you spend time with regularly? How has it affected your life?